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Casablanca, A Gateway of Cultures between East & West.

Situated in the West end of North Africa and across from the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca serves as an important gate between the West and the East66. Dating back to the 12th century, Casablanca has a long and rich history that began as a pirate base, to being controlled by the Portuguese and then falling under French rule67. Following the independence of Morocco from the French in 1956, Casablanca transitioned into Moroccan rule under a monarchy system. Casablanca’s geographical location, its long and rich history and the importance that King Mohammed VI bestowed on cultural institutions and entities have all contributed to the cultural vibrancy of this city.

Casablanca, the largest city in terms of population in Morocco, is home to a total of 56 cultural infrastructure points. One of the factors that have contributed to the cultural vibrancy of the city is that it is situated on the Atlantic Ocean. During the French colonization, from 1912 to 1956, Casablanca emerged as the main port of Morocco. The strategic location of Casablanca allowed for a diverse population to emerge that comprised of multiple ethnicities and religions from Arab to Berber, along with a Jewish population of 3,000 spread all over the country70. Out of the two “museums” in Casablanca one is the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, which is “considered the first museum in the city of Casablanca, and the only Jewish museum in the Arab region.”

Going back through time, it is evident that Casablanca has had a rich and old history due to the fact it was colonized by various foreign powers. All seven “universities” in Casablanca are French speaking institutions, portraying the effect that the French had on the education system. One of the eight “cinemas” in Casablanca, Cinema Rialto, was designed and built by a French architect in a typical art deco style72. Even though the French had a significant influence over Casablanca, parts of the cultural infrastructure pre-dates the French mandate. The Old Medina, one of the four “sites and landmarks”, was developed throughout time by the various ruling powers. Around the 12th century, Anfa, a Berber village73, was situated on the port thus contributing to the early formation of the Old Medina which was then further developed by the Portuguese around the 14th century. Under the Moroccan control, the Medina then expanded to incorporate homes and businesses74. The Medina serves as an accurate analogy depicting the relationship between the city’s history and its cultural vibrancy.

King Mohammed VI, the current ruling monarch of Morocco, has had a vital role in enhancing the cultural vibrancy of Casablanca. Back in October 2014, he announced the formation of the Grand Theatre of Casablanca that is set to be the largest “theatre” in Africa75. The King also launched various “fairs and festivals”, which total up to eight, positioning the country as an important artistic destination.

In terms of innovation clusters, Casablanca has a total of 13. Home to a population of 6.8 million people76, the city has six “co-working spaces”. Technopark, the only “urban district” in Casablanca, hosts approximately 280 startups and SMEs, with the aim of enhancing the green technology and cultural industries77. As a major port city, Casablanca’s geographic location joined with its history and the role of Mohammed VI in promoting culture have all had an effect on the cultural vibrancy of the city.

Researched and written by Yasmena AlMulla, Azza Elhassan, Juliette Zeidan & Wakim Zeidan The research was concluded in December 2019


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